Sunday, December 4, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 155

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 155

Chapter 54 is one of rejoicing and is full of promises for God's people. Author and scholar Barry G. Webb says, "Just as in Chapter 53 the atoning death of the Servant is already viewed from the divine perspective as already accomplished, so here in chapters 54 and 55 it is assumed as the basis of a new covenant of peace which will be the fulfillment of all previous covenants." (from The Message Of Isaiah, pg 215) God speaks of things which will come to pass as if they have already happened. As the Apostle Paul said, He is the God "who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not". (Romans 4:17) When God speaks a word, whether it's going to be fulfilled today or three thousand years in the future, it's as good as done. The peace He promises Israel is theirs, though it may be a long time in coming.

"Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,' says the Lord." (Isaiah 54:1) The barren woman here symbolizes the people of Zion. How barren and unfruitful they must have felt when they were forcibly taken captive to a foreign land while their own nation lay in ruins. How hopeless everything must have seemed. In ancient times women were looked down upon for being barren. It was assumed these women must be sinners and that God was punishing them by making them childless. A barren woman had to deal with the pitying looks of her friends and neighbors. Worse yet, she had to deal with those who looked on her with outright condemnation in their eyes, believing her to be an ungodly person. There would be those who would whisper behind her back, "If she was a good woman, God would have blessed her with children. She must have so much sin in her life that God is punishing her." While in exile, God's people were tormented by these same attitudes from their captors and from the nations around them who had been enemies of Israel and Judah. They laughed at them and said, "Where is your God now? He's abandoned you! You are such horrible people that He doesn't love you anymore. He is through with you as a nation." 

Oh, but they couldn't have been more wrong! The troubles that came upon the twelve tribes of Israel were a result of their idolatry, but God was by no means finished with them. Like several miraculous births we find in the Bible, where babies are born to barren women and even to women past the age of childbearing, God is going to call into being things that are not. The God who said, "Let there be light," and created the universe can speak to a dead womb and create a child or He can speak to a dead and defeated nation and make it rise again. Zion is depicted here as a desolate woman (without a husband and protector) while she is in exile, but a day is coming when the captives will return and the descendants of this formerly desolate woman will be many. "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities." (Isaiah 54:2-3) 

"Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood." (Isaiah 54:4) Zion was like a woman widowed and left alone in the world but such a great future lies ahead that she will forget the days of mourning.

"For your Maker is your husband---the Lord Almighty is His name---the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth." (Isaiah 54:4) In calling Himself "the Lord Almighty", God reminds the people that He is the "Lord Of Hosts", or to put it another way, the "God Of Angel Armies". He has command over all things in heaven and on earth. Most women, even in our day and age, hope to make a good match in marriage. Even though we are capable of supporting ourselves, we want a man who does his share in providing for the household and in protecting his wife and children. How much more can the Lord Almighty, the God of all the armies of heaven, do for us? Zion may once have felt like a rejected woman, but she has a Husband who loves her and wants to provide for her far more than any mortal man can. She need not look around her for world leaders to make things right, and she must not turn to idols, but she has to turn back to the One who loves her with an everlasting and sacrificial love.

"The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit---a wife who married young, only to be rejected,' says your God. 'For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,' says the Lord your Redeemer." (Isaiah 54:6-8) The Lord put this wife away for her infidelity, which the law allowed. The Lord Jesus, when asked about legitimate grounds for divorce, declared that the only legitimate reason for a man to divorce his wife was for unfaithfulness. (Matthew 19:9) The Lord had a right to put his wife away for her unfaithfulness but He also had the right to take her back. She had not remarried. She was desolate and barren in a foreign land. He was free to bring her back home to live with Him. 

The Lord instructed the prophet Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman so he could better understand the position the Lord was in. "Like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord." (Hosea 1:2b) So Hosea married a wayward woman named Gomer and had a family with her, but she abandoned the family to go live with another man. The Lord then instructed Hosea to go after her, though she was as much an adulteress as the people of the nation. Hosea had to pay quite a large price to persuade her lover to relinquish her: six ounces of silver and four hundred and thirty pounds of barley. Then he said no words of condemnation to her, but made what sounds much like a wedding vow to her, "You are to live with me and be faithful to me, and I am going to live with you and be faithful to you." (Hosea 3:3) This displays to us the love of God. He had the right to give Zion a bill of divorce and send her away and never speak to her again, but He loved her too much! He went after her and redeemed her. No price was too high to pay to get her back. In Hosea 2 the Lord speaks of how He will abandon her for a time because of her unfaithfulness, but then He says, "Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt." (Hosea 2:14-15) 

We have all been unfaithful to the Lord, going our own way, doing what pleased us instead of what pleased the Lord. Yet He woos us anyway. Yet He still comes after us. Yet He paid the highest price imaginable to redeem us. And now, redeemed by the blood of Christ, the Lord says to us, "You will live with Me forever and be faithful to Me, and I will live forever with you and be faithful to you."

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